June 1998

For Your Staff:Selling Treated Gemstones

Emerald Education

They're green, gorgeous and come with fillers. Here's how to tell your customers all about it

Shown are a 76-ct. emerald crystal from Muzo, Colombia, and four faceted Colombian emeralds in the 1-2ct. range that vary widely in clarity and cost-per-carat. Gems courtesy of Equatorian Imports, Dallas, TX.

When educating your customer about emeralds, discuss treatments matter-of-factly and honestly.

But gauge your customer's reaction carefully. Some people love all the information they can get, while others glaze over if you give them too many facts. Doctors and other professionals learn to watch people's reactions and adjust delivery to the receiver. You can too. Practice delivering an accurate but shortened version of treatment facts.

Here are some statements you can use on treatments and special care, plus advice on legal considerations, FTC guidelines and sources for additional information.

How To Introduce Treatments
If you're uncertain how to discuss emerald treatments with customers, here are some ideas:

  • Emeralds contain minute surface-reaching breaks that gem cutters fill with natural and man-made resin to soften and enhance the look of an emerald.
  • Hundreds of years ago, gem cutters learned to bathe emeralds in natural oils that filled the fissures and enhanced appearance. Today, these natural oils are still used, but so are many other fillers created with man-made material. No matter which filler has been used on your emerald, it will soften the visibility of flaws and give the stone its finishing touch.
  • The price of your emerald will depend on the relative quantity and position of its fissures, as well as the minute quantities of enhancement that are present. Retail prices can range from $12,000 to $30,000 per carat for the finest stones, while you can expect to pay $600 to $2,000 per carat for medium to lesser quality gems.

Special Care Warnings
When it comes time to offer advice on how your customer should care for his or her new emerald, here are some examples of what to say:

  • Wear with care. All emeralds are fragile because of unique characteristics that occur during the emerald crystal's growth. Be careful not to knock them or place them near high heat.
  • Cleaning. Emeralds should be cleaned by hand, not an ultrasonic cleaner, because this harsher method can damage or destroy fillers. To clean an emerald at home, use a soft toothbrush or lukewarm moist cloth; avoid soaking it.
  • When the emerald's setting needs repair. Be careful that the emerald is removed before a jeweler works on its setting because heat from a torch can cause small hidden surface-reaching breaks to widen and grow larger.
  • Re-treatment. Fillers can eventaually leak out or change, so advise the customer to have the emerald examined every few years by a gemologist to see if it needs to be cleaned or re-treatment.
  • In general. Because the customer's emerald has fillers, it needs special care and gentle treatment.

Further Advice for Sales Associates

  • Store policies. Learn your store's policies on re-treating emeralds and be sure to explain them to customers. Will the store re-treat without charge? Are there exceptions, such as if the emerald has been mistreated by another jeweler using a torch or ultrasonic cleaner? What if you believe the customer cracked the stone by placing it near high heat or hitting it against a hard surface? Will your store still repair or replace the emerald?
  • Written statements. Be sure to give your customers a written statement detailing the emerald's fissure treatment, along with very specific warnings about care and avoiding heat and ultrasonic.

Legal Considerations

The FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry say "it is unfair or deceptive to fail to disclose that a gemstone has been treated in any manner that is not permanent or creates special care requirements, and to fail to disclose that a treatment is not permanent if such is the case. The following are examples of treatments that should be disclosed because they usually are not permanent or create special care requirements: impregnation, application of colored or colorless oil or epoxy-like resins, wax or plastic. The disclosure must be made at the point of sale except that disclosure should be made in any solicitation where the product can be purchased without viewing, and in the case of televised shopping programs, on the air. If special care requirements for a gemstone arise because the gemstone has been treated, it is recommended that the seller disclose the special care requirements to the purchaser."

Though complying with the FTC Guides is crucial, consumers can still sue under state consumer protection laws for unfair and deceptive acts and practices if they feel you didn't disclose properly. Put in writing your store's policies, a full statement about the emerald's treatment and advice on care and protection.

Additional reading
Emerald and Other Beryls
by John Sinkankas, Chilton Press, Radnor, PA.

Emerald & Tanzanite Buying Guide
by Renee Newman, International Jewelry Publications, Los Angeles, CA.

Gem Identification Made Easy
by Antoinette Matlins, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT.

GIA's Gem Reference Guide,
Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad, CA.

AGTA Source Directory,
1997/1998 Edition [contains Gem Enhancement Manual), American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.

AGTA Gemstone Enhancements, What You Should Know,
American Gem Trade Association, Dallas, TX.


by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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